10 Free WordPress Plug-ins Make Blogging Better

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Google Analyticator

It's hard to engage with your audience if you don't know who they are. Where are they coming from? What operating system or Web browser are they using? What pages are they reading and where do they go from there? (Click the images to the left for a larger view)

All this data and more is available via Google Analyticator. Sign up for a free Google Analytics account, activate the plug-in, supply your analytics tracking number, and this plug-in will invisibly add the necessary tracking code to each of your pages. The data compiled can be used to follow how many people come to each page of your site each day, providing useful information that you can capitalize on when deciding what content to offer next or what advertisements to accept.

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WordPress.com Stats offers similar but limited analytics from the comfort of your own WordPress dashboard - but if you don't mind giving up your site stats to Google, the data you get with Google Analyticator is surprisingly comprehensive for a free service.

Simple Tags

WordPress 2.3, released in September 2007, added support for tags, with which authors categorize their posts by keywords. But this metadata is cumbersome to manipulate and exploit without a plug-in like Simple Tags, which adds three menu items to your Posts menu: Manage Tags, Mass Edit Tags and Auto Tags. Manage Tags offers bulk adding, deleting, renaming and editing capabilities. Mass Edit Tags lists all your posts' tag fields for manual manipulation of up to 100 posts simultaneously. And Auto Tags will automatically tag posts that meet user-defined criteria. (Click image below for larger view)

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Additional options for Simple Tags allow it to find particular words in your posts and make them links to the index page for that tag; enable authors to tag not only posts, but also pages; find and suggest relevant tags based on local posts as well as Yahoo searches; and find posts with similar tags and list them as "related content" in the blog, its RSS feed or both.

WordPress 2.8 brings some of these tools into the CMS's core functionality, and if you prefer to write in a stream of consciousness without categorizing or linking your posts, then Simple Tags won't prove useful. But if you're a metadata junkie, then this tool will help both you and your readers find what you're looking for.

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